Promotion of Scripture Study & Bible Reading in Church History

This page is intended to collect examples from Church History where the Church has promoted Scripture study and Bible reading. I wanted to make this page because I have often heard people claim that the Church discouraged Bible reading for part of its history, and I think that's not true. So what about you, friends? Do you know of any other sources showing that the Church has always promoted Bible reading and Scripture study?

Promotion of Scripture Study & Bible Reading in Church History

410 A.D. - St. Jerome - “[I follow] the command[s] of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. ... [For] ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” (Commentary on Isaiah Book 18)

Before 604 A.D. - Pope St. Gregory I - "The Emperor of heaven, the Lord of men and of angels, has sent you His epistles for your life’s advantage—and yet you neglect to read them eagerly. Study them, I beg you, and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joys." Letters, 5, 46.

~630 A.D. - St. Isidore of Seville - “These bookcases of ours hold a great many books. … Here the venerable volumes of the two Laws shine forth, [the] New joined together with the Old.” “Behold and read, you who so desire, if you wish. Here lay your sluggishness aside, put off your fastidiousness of mind. Believe me, brother, you will return thence a more learned man. But perhaps you say, ‘Why do I need this now? For I would think no study still remains for me: I have unrolled histories and hurried through all the law.’ Truly, if you say this, then you yourself still know nothing.” (From the Poem Written in his Library)

798 A.D. - St. Alcuin of York - “Accustom the boys to...learn the sacred Scriptures, [so] that when they are grown up they may teach others. … [S]tudy the text; understand its meaning [so] that you may both feed yourselves and feed others with the food of the spiritual life.” Also: ~797 A.D. - “Therefore the reading of the Holy Scriptures is necessary, for in them each may learn what he must follow and what avoid.” (Letters to the Monasteries of Lindisfarne and Hexham, at it appears in G.F. Browne, Alcuin of York, p. 136, 138)

866 A.D. - Pope St. Nicholas I - “[T]he Christian [ought to use Sunday] to church, to engage in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, to spend time in prayer, to offer oblations, to communicate with the memories of the saints, to rise to imitate them, to concentrate on divine scriptures, and to distribute alms to the needy.” (Letter 99, The Responses of Pope Nicholas I to the Questions of the Bulgars)

Before 1153 A.D. - St. Bernard of Clairvaux - "The person who thirsts for God eagerly studies and meditates on the inspired Word, knowing that there, he is certain to find the One for whom he thirsts." (Commentary on the Song of Songs, Sermon 23:3)

1199 A.D. - Pope Innocent III - "the desire to understand the divine Scriptures, and, according to the Scriptures themselves, the zeal to spread them, is not forbidden, but is rather commendable." (Cum Ex Injuncto, Condemning Unauthorized Translators and Preachers)

1215 A.D. - 12th Ecumenical Council - "[In] each cathedral church there should be provided a suitable [income] for a master who shall instruct without charge the [priests] of the cathedral church and other poor [students]... [Each] metropolitan church shall [also] have a theologian to teach scripture to priests and others and especially to instruct them in matters which are recognized as pertaining to the cure of souls." (Fourth Lateran Council Canon 11)

1234 A.D. - Code of Canon Law (as promulgated by Gregory IX, quoting Pope Innocent III) - “The desire to understand the divine Scriptures, and, according to the Scriptures themselves, the zeal to spread them, is not forbidden, but is rather commendable.” (Decretals of Gregory IX Book 5 Title 7 Chapter 12)

1256 A.D. - St. Thomas Aquinas - In his inaugural lecture at the University of Paris, St. Thomas Aquinas lectured about three reasons to study Scripture based on a quotation from the book of Baruch. “ ‘This is the book of the commandments of God, and the law that is for ever. All that keep it shall come to life: but they that have forsaken it, to death. Baruch 4:1.’ [St. Thomas speaking:] ...Sacred Scripture is [here] commended for three things. First, for the authority with which it charges: ‘This is the book of the commandments of God.’ Second, for the eternal truth with which it instructs, when it says, ‘And the law that is forever.’ Third, for the usefulness with which it entices, when it says, ‘All that keep it shall come to life.’ ” (Thomas Aquinas, Hic Est Liber, 1256, in Ralph McInerny, Thomas Aquinas, Selected Writings, 5-6)

1382 A.D. - Pope Gregory XI - “[T]he kingdom of England [is] glorious…[for] its sacred learning; [and for] producing also many men illustrious for their exact knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.” (Bull Against John Wycliffe)

1546 A.D. - 19th Ecumenical Council - "[Let all churches] at least have a master --- to be chosen by the bishop... --- to teach grammar gratuitously to clerics, and other poor [students], that so they may afterwards, with God's blessing, pass on to the said study of sacred Scripture. ... In the public colleges also...a lectureship [is] honourable [and] most necessary of all...[therefore] let [one] be established... Furthermore, those who are teaching the said sacred Scripture, as long as they teach publicly in the schools, as also the [students] who are studying in those schools, shall fully enjoy...[special] privileges..." (Council of Trent Session 5 Chapter 1) The Council also said that the reading of Scripture is "necessary to the Christian commonwealth." (Council of Trent Session 5 Chapter 2)

1778 A.D. - Pope Pius VI - “[Y]ou judge exceedingly well, that the faithful should be excited to the reading of the Holy publishing the sacred writings in the language of your country, suitable to every one's capacity…” “[F]or these are the most abundant sources which ought to be left open to every one, to draw from them purity of morals and of doctrine, to eradicate the errors which are widely disseminated in these corrupt times.” (Letter to the Most Rev. Anthony Martini, Archbishop Of Florence, on his Italian translation of the Bible. Translated and printed in the Haydock Bible, revised by the Very Reverend Dr. Husenbeth, 1884 AD. See Photograph)

1893 A.D. - Pope Leo XIII - “[We] have for a long time cherished the desire to give an impulse to the noble science of Holy Scripture, and to impart to Scripture study a direction suitable to the needs of the present day. [We] not only...desire that this grand source of Catholic revelation should be made safely and abundantly accessible to the flock of Jesus Christ, but also not to suffer any attempt to defile or corrupt it, either on the part of those who impiously and openly assail the Scriptures, or of those who are led astray into fallacious and imprudent novelties.” (Providentissimus Deus 2)

1920 A.D. - Pope Benedict XV - “Our one desire for all the Church's children is that, being saturated with the Bible, they may arrive at the all surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (Spiritus Paraclitus 69)

And: “Jerome's teaching on the superexcellence and truth of Scripture is Christ's teaching. Wherefore we exhort all the Church's follow closely in St. Jerome's footsteps. If they will but do so they will learn to prize as he prized the treasure of the Scriptures, and will derive from them most abundant and blessed fruit.” (ibid. 30)

And: “[Jerome’s] the maiden Demetrias are really addressed to us all: ‘Love the Bible and wisdom will love you; love it and it will preserve you; honor it and it will embrace you; these are the jewels which you should wear on your breast and in your ears.’ " (ibid. 31)

And: “[As] far as in us lies…[we] shall, with St. Jerome as our guide, never desist from urging the faithful to read daily the Gospels, the Acts and the Epistles, so as to gather thence food for their souls.” “Our thoughts naturally turn just now to the Society of St. Jerome, which we ourselves were instrumental in founding… The object of this Society is to put into the hands of as many people as possible the Gospels and Acts, so that every Christian family may have them and become accustomed to reading them. ... We earnestly hope, then, that similar Societies will be founded in your dioceses and affiliated to the parent Society here.” (ibid. 43-44)

1943 - Pope Pius XII - “[We wish] to dissipate the idea that the Church is opposed to or in any way impedes the reading of the Scriptures in the vernacular. ... Bishops should...lend help to those pious associations whose aim it is to spread copies of the Sacred Letters, especially of the Gospels, among the faithful, and to procure by every means that in Christian families the same be read daily with piety and devotion.” (Divino Afflante Spiritu 9, 51)

1956 - Pope Pius XII - “[It] is clear that the faithful must seek from Scripture, tradition and the sacred liturgy as from a deep untainted source...the nourishment for the fostering and development of their religious fervor.” (Haurietis Aquas 100)

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